Jonah was a prophet who loved his own country, Israel, so when God told him to go to Nineveh—the capital city of the Assyrian empire, known for its brutality and licentiousness—Jonah ran. When Jonah’s boat encountered a violent storm and seemed likely to sink, Jonah told the crew to throw him overboard, knowing that God had sent the storm because he ran.
Before Jonah could drown, God sent a whale that swallowed Jonah. Jonah spent three days inside the whale before being vomited onto the shore.
What’s one thing you’re proud of accomplishing that you initially failed at?
Have a volunteer read Jonah 3:1-2.
Jonah failed to listen to God’s command, but God gave him a second chance.
Has anyone ever given you a second chance? What happened, and what did you do with the opportunity?
Have you ever given someone else a second chance? What made you decide to give that person another shot? How did it work out?
In his sermon, Mike made a profound observation that sometimes we throw people into the deep end to see if they can swim, and when they struggle, we kick them out of the pool. In other words, we give someone a task that we know might be too much for them, but then we blame them when they can’t handle it.
Why do you think we expect more of people than we know they can handle and then blame them when they fail?
Fortunately for us, God isn’t like this. He’s not just a God of second chances. He’s a God of third and fourth and fifth chances. His love and forgiveness don’t run out. They don’t have a limit. Romans 8:38-39 tells us that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Where in your life do you need a second (or third or fourth or fifth) chance?
Have a volunteer read Jonah 3:3-4
The message that Jonah preached to the Ninevites was a hard one. Telling someone that they need to stop doing what they’re doing and act differently is never easy. Few of us like having difficult conversations. You know the kind, the ones where you have to confront a friend about a drinking problem or a cheating problem or a gambling problem or an anger problem.
That’s what Jonah did. He told a whole society that they needed to stop what they were doing and change. Only these people weren’t his friends, they were his enemies.
Is there someone in your life you need to have a difficult conversation with? What’s holding you back?
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a difficult conversation? How did you respond?
What are some techniques for having difficult conversations well? In other words, how can we express the truth in love—as opposed to expressing the truth without love or failing to express the truth at all?
Have a volunteer read Jonah 3:5-10
Often, we feel bad about things that we do wrong. We’re miserable, but we’re not broken. We feel bad, but ultimately, we don’t really want to change. We don’t like how we feel, but we like what we’re doing too much to stop.
You can be miserable and even have a desire to get well, but still be so self-absorbed and self-reliant that you won’t humble yourself to the point of surrender. True brokenness, true repentance always results in surrender to God’s leadership and a resolve to walk a new direction with his help.
What does it take to move from misery to brokenness so that we can start on the path towards healing?
What is the difference between trying hard to change and surrendering to God and allowing Him to change us?
Have a volunteer read Jonah 4:1-2
Jonah was upset because God’s forgiveness of the Ninevites wasn’t fair. They were a truly awful people who had done terrible things.
But God isn’t a fair God. He’s a gracious God. And that’s something we should be grateful for. Because while we all like to think of ourselves as good people, an honest evaluation of our lives would reveal some decidedly not so good things.
Who among us hasn’t belittled someone, making them feel small and worthless? Hasn’t failed to stand up for someone who has being picked on? Hasn’t callously walked by someone in need? Hasn’t lied or cheated or stolen?
We should thank God that He isn’t fair but that he’s rather a God of grace, who through the work of Jesus on the cross took the punishment for our wrongs.
God’s gift of grace to us calls us to extend grace to others.
What would it take to shift our mindset such that we stop treating people fairly and started extending them grace?
Like Jonah, we often fail to appreciate the many blessings that we have. And should one of those blessings happen to be taken from us—whether by God’s direct action or simply the circumstances of life—we’re likely to fly off the handle.
Counting our blessings helps us to keep perspective. This week, set aside five minutes at the end of each day to reflect on three things that you are grateful for, and write them down. The many blessings God has given us quickly become apparent when we begin to look for them.